Certain life experiences are meant to be passed along, especially if they include jamming to “Purple Rain” with Prince at Paisley Park, touring the world over with a set list that includes original songs by legends like jazz guitarist Pat Metheny and playing for the Obamas inside the White House.
So a little over four years ago, when the long-lauded Ahn Trio — Korean American sister musicians Maria, Lucia and Angella, who have been heralded as classical revolutionaries for their pop arrangements and collaborations — faced the birth of Lucia’s son Blue, they knew right away what they had to do for him: a musical diary, in his name.
The resulting “Blue,” the trio’s first album in nine years following “Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac,” comes out April 22. It’s an 11-track love letter from the sisters, to the great musicians who have inspired them and to the young kid they hope comes to understand that a big world awaits him — and that nothing beats following your passions.
After all, it’s the mindset that’s led a 20-plus-year journey for the trio. Maria, the sisters’ de-facto leader, has always had an unchanging answer for anyone who’s asked what the violin, cello and piano-wielding group set out to accomplish: “If you’re not having fun with what you’re doing, why would you keep doing it? That’s our attitude.”
“Blue” (Photo courtesy of the Ahn Trio)
“Our goal was always, let’s be proud of what we do,” Maria said. “We were never saying, we want to be No. 1 in the world. We want to reinvent ourselves and keep on going and keep on pursuing these projects. I feel like that’s what keeps us younger as artists. It’s so fun to do.”
The songs, recorded inside the historic Avatar Studios in New York City, are a testament to the Ahns’ musical diversity, from David Balakrishnan’s “Skylife,” Nguyên Lê’s “Nina Nane” and Antônio Carlos Jobim’s “Insensatez” to original works “Lina’s Waltz” and “Lullaby for Leo” by Hyung-ki Joo and collaborations with Kenji Bunch.
Metheny’s “Yuryung” is a personal favorite of Maria’s. “[Metheny] has toured a lot in Japan and Korea. He explained this piece to me — he said he was inspired that we are from Seoul, that he loves Seoul,” she said. He told Maria that the music is an exploration of the lives that pass us by. “It’s a deeper, philosophical kind of piece. Even though he may not know what the Korean ‘han’ (a kind of sorrow) means, you feel the ‘han’ in the music that he wrote. He felt it.”
The album also carries an arrangement of Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” by D.D. Jackson. The lyrics to the original fits “perfectly into our vision for the CD. ‘She’s walking through the clouds, with a circus mind that’s running wild … fly on, little wing.’ Not only does it sum up how we feel about Blue, but how we feel about our art. May we all fly on.”
An upcoming album tour, which kicks off with pop up shows in Europe, will pull the trio out of their everyday lives — Angella teaches at Montana State University, while Maria’s at the Harlem School of the Arts — for a while, to cities across the globe.
“We made this album for ourselves, too,” Maria said. “We don’t want to forget that kid spirit of how pure our dreams are. We’re older now – it’s a reminder. We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. This should be fun. Music should be fun. There are enough people who take it way more seriously than us!”
April 27 @ Museo Marino Marini / Florence, Italy
May 1 @ Jazz Dock in Prague / Czech Republic
May 2 @ Clamores Jazz Club / Madrid, Spain
May 6 @ Theater im Zimmer / Hamburg, Germany
May 28 @ Peles Castle / Romania
June 13 @ Joe’s Pub, Public Theater / New York City
July 15 @ Big Sky, Montana
Correction: Paul Metheny’s “Yuryung” was recorded for the first time for “Blue,” not in 2008.